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Lifestyle Issues

This page does not cover every aspect of lifestyle that might influence dementia and it is by no means certain that the issues covered will affect the chances of any individual getting a dementia diagnosis. Please read the documentation to explore the trends. This section is partly an update to the previous section on the site but with additional topics.

The incidence and prevalence of dementia are expected to increase several-fold in the coming decades. Given that the current pharmaceutical treatment of dementia can only temporarily improve symptoms, risk factor modification remains the cornerstone for dementia prevention. Some of the most promising strategies for the prevention of dementia include vascular risk factor control, cognitive activity, physical activity, social engagement, diet, and recognition of depression. In observational studies, vascular risk factors including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity are fairly consistently associated with increased risk of dementia. In addition, people with depression are at high risk for cognitive impairment. Population studies have reported that intake of antioxidants or polyunsaturated fatty acids may be associated with a reduced incidence of dementia, and it has been reported that people who are cognitively, socially, and physically active have a reduced risk of cognitive impairment. Most promising, interventions of cognitive and physical activity improve cognitive performance and slow cognitive decline as does adherence to the Mediterranean diet.

The prevention of dementia through identification and management of risk factors is of public health importance because of the growth in the elderly population. Dementia affects at least 6–10% of persons older than 65 years. It increasingly causes significant likelyhood and mortality with Alzheimer’s disease ranking as the eighth leading cause of death among the elderly in the USA. Current treatment methods for dementia have limited success. Dementia, in general, is increasingly recognised as a complication of cardiovascular risk factors. It is possible that there is a common contributory pathway for the development of both Alzheimer’s dementia and vascular-type dementia and that obesity contributes to both these major forms of cognitive impairment.

According to the 'Living with Dementia Report', there are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, 42,000 of whom are under the age of 65. Many people with dementia also live with one or more other health conditions and it has been shown that:-

•  41 per cent have high blood pressure
• 32 per cent have depression
• 27 per cent have heart disease
• 18 per cent have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (mini stroke)
• 13 per cent have diabetes

The relationship between dementia and other illnesses can be complex and variable. High blood pressure and diabetes can increase someone’s risk of dementia; having a stroke can cause dementia; and depression can be a consequence of it. Other illnesses that may be present are coincidental, eg arthritis. The awareness of people affected by dementia is extremely variable in understanding the links between type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia. The same applied to people’s understanding of the public health mantra ‘what is good for your heart, is good for your head.’ However, in spite of this, dementia lacks the precedence of other health conditions in the check. This is despite research showing that careful management of diet, exercise, sleep, smoking and alcohol intake from middle age is particularly important in decreasing someone’s likelihood of developing dementia and related problems. Interestingly the UK Government has just released a Policy Paper 'Prevention is better than cure: our vision to help you live well for longer'. Now whilst the Paper sets out all the lifestyle factors detailed in this section, it fails to even mention dementia.

Supporting documentation on the relationship of Obesity and Dementia can be found HERE

Supporting information on the relationship of Ovary Removal and Dementia can be found HERE

Supporting documentation on the relationship of Sugar Intake and Dementia can be found HERE

Supporting information on the relationship of Nutrition and Dementia can be found HERE

Supporting documentation on the relationship of Sleep and Dementia can be found HERE

Supporting information on the relationship of Vitamins and Dementia will be available soon

Supporting information on the relationship of Ethnicity, Genetics and Dementia will be available soon

Supporting information on the relationship of Exercise, Activities and Dementia will be available soon